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In SNOW WHYTE AND THE QUEEN OF MAYHEM, we jump into the action on page one, immediately discovering that the queen hates her baby daughter so much that she repeatedly attempts to kill her. Desperate to save his daughter, King Fredrick flees. He leaves baby Katiyana (a name that means Snow in the kingdom of Mayhem) with his Uncle Barney for safekeeping, than takes off again, where he is met with a vicious, untimely demise. Fredrick only ever called Katiyana "Kat" around Barney, so Barney never knew her full name. He gives her his surname, Whyte, so she is brought up never knowing that she's Mayhem's princess, believing herself to be a simple, ordinary girl. One day, Barney goes blind and is forced to bring in outside help for the apple orchard, a town boy named Jeremy who is about Kat's age. Barney falls into despair and begins drowning his sorrows in drink, and after he grows more violent, Jeremy encourages Kat to escape, creating a path that will bring about the tale everyone knows and lives, albeit not in a traditional fashion.
It was interesting to see the way Melissa Lemon included so much more than just a fairy tale in her novel. One character is an alcoholic, and another has Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI, or "brittle bone disease"), though neither terminology is ever used. It was especially interesting to see OI in a fairy tale, which I hadn't been expecting.
One of the stand-outs about SNOW WHYTE AND THE QUEEN OF MAYHEM, at least to me, is the fact that the entire book is narrated from the magic mirror's POV. Have you ever wondered about why he's inside the mirror or what his life is like in there? I never really considered it until an episode of ABC's Once Upon a Time last season, then again with this novel. In fact, the way this book is told reminds me a lot of Jodi Lynn Anderson's buzzworthy release TIGER LILY earlier this year. (Review) I had been expecting a book about the title character, but not one from Tinker Bell's POV. Likewise, I was expecting a story about Snow White, but not one from the mirror's POV! In a way, this worked well with Lemon's storytelling style. Because she tells things in a traditional fairy tale style of prose, both of her novels have come off a little more "tell" and a little less "show." This irritated me at times in CINDER AND ELLA, but suited the text more in SNOW WHYTE, so it didn't stand out as it had before.
While there was one big "surprise" that I saw coming, there was another that I didn't, and it truly caught me off-guard. It was interesting to see the way Lemon twisted the fairy tale together, than tore it apart to insert new or different elements, creating her own unique version of the tale.